Who’s brutal?

The other day, I wrote about how it’s a tough time to write a sex blog. It is. I wrote this post, originally, prior to the murder of George Floyd. In the argot of this blog, “brutality” is a trait displayed in my relationships. But the real world makes me question my word choice. Or rather, it makes me at least flag it. This post, about brutality in a relational concept, has nothing to do with systemic, structural racism, or the ways in which American policing brutalizes Black people. It’s just about how I can be cruel.

Marina’s and my relationship entered a new zone recently. The zone where we hurt one another.

In a previous post, I described some of how she recently hurt me. And, in the rawness and fury of the moment, I was blind to my own part in the drama we played out. I made her out to be the villain; me, to be the victim.

With the benefit of a little hindsight – and a lot of conversation, and work – I see, now, just how much I contributed to the hurricane she and I created.

Without going into details, the outline of the situation is this: Marina was leaving me. Not permanently (though that, of course, is coming). No, in this instance, she was leaving me for a finite period. Going to the place – and, in a sense, to the person – for whom I fear she will leave me more permanently.

In the lead-up to her departure, we discussed the upcoming separation. Separations are hard for most of us. For me? They’re existentially threatening. This has nothing to do with Marina. This has to do with my mother. But in anticipation of my pain, I laid out precisely what I wanted from Marina, what I needed from her. I hoped that by doing so, by taking from Marina what I thought I needed, I could inoculate myself against that pain. In fact, I built the road that led to my maximal pain.

Now, it’s true that Marina was imperfect in her attempts to give me what I asked for, that our respective relationships to separations interact in a profoundly difficult (for both of us) way.


In the days following the terror and torture I felt during the lead-up to our separation (and helped, generously, by Marina’s nearly infinite openness and willingness to stick with me as I gazed deep in my navel), I came to see clearly just how committed I had been to a rupture in the moment of separation, and not just that, how committed I was to a particular narrative of rupture. (The one in that previous post.)

So what happened, in brief, is that, as the separation approached, I became more and more vulnerable, more and more scared, and I medicated my fear with greater and greater demands. The demands were overwhelming, both in their quantity and their urgency. And, all this was happening as Marina was pulling away.

In the aftermath, I subjected myself to just a bit of scrutiny.

I laid out our interactions in the lead-up to her departure, chronologically. Every text. Every e-mail. Every conversation. Every photo of her face, thighs, cunt she had sent me. Every orgasm.

The exercise was instructive.

I could see, as I created the timeline, just how inevitable the whole thing was, how self-destructive I was, how brutal I was.

It all boils down to a simple concept: the open parenthesis. In mathematics, or programming, parentheses come in pairs. There’s an open parenthesis and a close parenthesis. In my life, the open parenthesis – I ask for something but haven’t yet received it – is torture. Unfortunately, the only thing worse than an open parenthesis for me is a close parenthesis. It says, “We’re done here. So long.”

I’m like the kid who won’t let his parents leave his room, saying, “Good night!” and then asking his parents to say “Good night,” but then responding with “Good night!” and asking again. Like the teen lover who can’t get off the phone with one final “I love you.”

So as Marina was trying to leave – initially, just to go on with her evening, but eventually, to make her way to the place (and not, exactly, the person, but still…) for which she will leave me – I kept trying to claw her back, holding on, refusing to let go.

And I. Was. Brutal.

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